Goal is to recast admission process, broaden access, and encourage college-going mindset for all students
Penn State is joining a diverse coalition of public and private colleges and universities with the goal of improving the college admission application process for all students.
The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success is developing a free platform of online tools to streamline the experience of planning for and applying to college. The planning tools will be available to high school ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade students beginning in January 2016.
Coalition member institutions hope to recast the college admission process into to a more engaged, ongoing and educationally positive experience. They also hope to motivate a stronger college-going mindset among students of all backgrounds, especially those from low-income families or underrepresented groups that have historically had less access to leading colleges and universities.
“Through our membership in the Coalition, we will engage students in the college search process earlier, giving students and families much more time to be thoughtful in their search for educational opportunities after high school,” said Clark Brigger, Penn State’s Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions. “In addition, the new Coalition is founded upon the principles of access, affordability and success, which seem to perfectly align with Penn State’s mission.”
The Coalition currently includes more than 80 public and private universities and colleges across the United States that have made a commitment to make college affordable and accessible for students from diverse backgrounds, and for students to be successful in completing their education. The Coalition, which continues to add members, will work over the next few months to develop tools and processes that are intended to lower many of the barriers that prevent students from attending college or successfully earning a degree.
“The college admission process today can be stress-inducing and we know it can present barriers for all students, especially for those who are the first in their family to attend college,” said Zina L. Evans, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Florida.
“The schools in the Coalition have individually tried many different and creative approaches to address these challenges,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale University. “We have come to the conclusion that we can have a much bigger impact on student access and completion if we work together.”
Later this year, the Coalition will share details about new college planning and application tools that will streamline the admission and financial aid processes and allow students to begin planning for college much earlier in their high school years. The online tools—which will include a digital portfolio, a collaboration platform, and an application portal—seek to reshape the process of applying to college as the culmination of students’ development over the course of their high school careers, reducing the unfamiliarity of the application and leveling the playing field for all students. The application will add another option to all the ways that students currently apply for college. Many Coalition schools will accept applications through the portal in the summer of 2016.
“Starting to think about college earlier reduces some of the pressure of the application process, but more importantly, it sets the expectation that students should aspire to attend college,” said Seth Allen, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College. “There are so many talented students who should aim for a great school, but they often don’t understand the path to get there.”
For example, research has found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds often do not participate effectively in the college application process, struggle with applying for financial aid, and often do not get awarded all the financial aid they qualify for. As a result, even the most highly qualified students either do not attend college, attend a college that does not engage their full potential, or do not complete their degrees. Attending a high school with a college-going culture greatly increases students’ college success.
The Coalition hopes to address these findings through its free online tools and increased transparency around admissions and financial aid.
“The fact that some highly motivated and well prepared students do not apply to and enroll in the college they are best suited for is a persistent problem,” said Barbara Gill, associate vice president for enrollment management at the University of Maryland. “This Coalition is working to mitigate this problem by empowering students from disadvantaged backgrounds to immediately identify a diverse set of schools that are likely to provide considerable financial support and will invest in their academic success.”
Members of the Coalition include a diverse group of public universities that have affordable tuition along with need-based financial aid for in-state residents, and private colleges and universities that provide sufficient financial aid to meet the full, demonstrated financial need of every domestic student they admit. Coalition schools graduate at least 70 percent of their students within six years, with many having much higher graduation rates.
“Coalition schools offer students incredible choice in location, size, selectivity, and mission, but we all share a commitment that the students we admit can afford to attend and will have a high likelihood of graduating,” said James G. Nondorf, vice president for enrollment at the University of Chicago. “That should give students confidence that college is within their reach, and that they can be successful. We hope this effort will ultimately be successful in persuading many more students to aim for college and help ensure that they are prepared to do so.”
The Coalition’s online portfolio of college planning tools will be open to high school students starting in January 2016. Additional details about the application process enabled by the platform will be announced before summer of 2016. More information can be found at coalitionforcollegeaccess.org.
Coalition Member Institutions
Bryn Mawr College
California Institute of Technology
College of Holy Cross
College of William & Mary
Franklin and Marshall College
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
Illinois State University
Indiana University – Bloomington
James Madison University
Johns Hopkins University
Miami University – Ohio
Michigan State University
Mount Holyoke College
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Ohio State University
Rutgers University – New Brunswick
St Olaf College
State University of New York – College at Geneseo
State University of New York – University at BuffaloSwarthmore College
Texas A&M University
University of Chicago
University of Connecticut
University of Florida
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Maryland – College Park
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
University of Missouri
University of New Hampshire
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Rochester
University of South Carolina
University of Vermont
University of Virginia
University of Washington
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Washington University in St. Louis